• Preparations are being finalised, 50% staff attendance mandatory: Dir Education
• Students to be permitted only after written consent from parents: MHA
• Before re-opening schools, admin should take everyone onboard: PSAJK
• Will not risk the lives of our children: PAPAS
After remaining closed for more than seven months due to COVID-19 pandemic, Jammu Kashmir administration is mulling to reopen schools for higher classes from September 21.
Director School Education Kashmir (DSEK), Younis Malik told Rising Kashmir that they were mulling to reopen the schools for higher classes in Kashmir as directed by the new guidelines issued by the Union Health and Family Welfare department.
“We are following the guidelines and SOPs of the Ministry of Health and preparations are being finalised for the same,” he said.
Malik said 50 percent attendance is mandatory for the staff while students would only attend schools on a volunteer basis after getting consent from their guardians.
“School heads have been directed to strategise their respective staff and finalise all the arrangements regarding the reopening of schools,” he said.
Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued guidelines for Unlock 4 and allowed the partial reopening of schools from September 21.
Another official at the department said said till 8th standard, only 50 percent of the staff would report every day while for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th standard, students could attend school on a voluntary basis with 50 percent attendance.
The officials said that the students of 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th could attend the schools from September 21 with written permission from their parents or guardians.
“The students on a voluntary basis can visit the school to clear any doubts with regard to their curriculum,” the official said.
As per the official, the online classes, and digital education activities would continue as usual.
“We will ensure that all guidelines and SOPs are followed and then only classwork will be allowed,” the official said.
Meanwhile, parents in the Valley expressed a mixed response for sending their wards to schools.
Mushtaq Ahmad, whose daughter studies in 9th standard in Baramulla told Rising Kashmir that reopening of schools was a futile exercise as the health risk was extremely high.
“What if the school fails to implement precautionary measures? Children often remove mask when they feel suffocated. I am worried about my children and will not send them to school at any cost till the coronavirus pandemic is over,” he said.
Similarly, Showkat Ahmad, whose son studies in 12th standard in Srinagar said online teaching was not suitable due to low internet speed.
“Already one year has passed following the back to back lockdowns. In the absence of proper guidance, the academic performance of students is likely to be impacted," he said.
Ahmad said he would accept low grades in examination rather than sending his children to school as COBID-19 cases were increasing every day.
Private Schools’ Association J&K President, G N Var said before reopening of schools the administration should take everyone onboard.
“Except some schools, the government has no basic structure in the schools. What will students, who live in far-flung areas of the Valley and Jammu region, do in unsafe schools. The government should focus more on community classes," he said.
Var also said that in Pulwama the local administration had still occupied some schools for using them as quarantine centers and those that had been vacated were not in a condition to handle the students during COVID-19.
“There is an increase in both caseloads and COVID-19 deaths every day. Before taking any action, they should take everyone onboard including parents, school administrations, civil society and NGOs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Parents Association of Privately Administered Schools (PAPAS), Kashmir, Mohsin Iqbal said majority of the parents were not ready to send their wards to schools.
“We will not risk the lives of our children. Until COVID-19 vaccination is not done. No parent will risk their wards by sending them to schools at this moment,” he said.
Earlier this week, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued SOPs including staggering of classrooms, no sharing of objects, separate timing slots, physical distancing and sanitisation of the premises for the phased reopening of schools.
According to the guidelines, all entry points to the schools would have hand sanitizers and thermal screening for temperature. To ensure that physical distancing of six feet is maintained, schools have been asked to draw markings on the floor in staff rooms, office areas, the mess, library, cafeteria, and also design classroom seating accordingly.